Rape is not a weapon of warring: It is an act of patriarchal misogynistic violence & oppression

By Jeanne Sarson | Jun 21, 2011

It seems, I ought to, when writing or speaking about rapings perpetrated predominately against women and girls pre-post- or in-conflict refer to such a crime as being isolated to “a weapon of war” because this is how the world is presently translating such rapings.  Today I will, however, change my wording to reflect more accurately my position.

When it is stated that “rape is a weapon of war” this in-effect transforms rape into an object – into a tool – much like other warring tools such as a gun, or a knife, or a machete or a bomb. Using the phrase that “rape is a weapon of war” invisibilizes that the act of raping involves a very personal intentional decision-making process. In other words, when a male person commits an act of rape in the public battlefields of warring men, warring tribes, or warring States, he knows what he is doing (I speak here not of child soldiers or others who are forced to rape whether in the ‘so-called’ public or private spheres). He knows he has a penis that is erect – he knows that his penis belongs to him – he knows that his penis is part of his male human anatomy – he knows he has control over his penis – he knows where his penis is and where and how he decides to treat his penis. He must asks (a) Will I force my penis into another person’s anatomy – predominately a woman or girl’s vagina, her rectum, or her mouth and (b)Will I ‘pleasure’ my-Self in such a way as to ejaculate my semen into her vagina, her rectum or her mouth or onto her body? I state these obvious facts because I do not believe that a male person is controlled by his penis. I do believe he has a brain.

And when he uses his hands to rape or uses his hands to pick up an inanimate object such as a gun or a knife to use to inflict the pain and humiliation of rape – I do believe he knows his hands are a part of his anatomical body. I do believe he has control over what he uses his hands for just as he has control over his penis. I believe he has control over whether he uses his hands to rape or whether he uses his hands to control an inanimate object such as a gun or a knife to transform these into weapons for raping. I believe he cannot argue that he has no control over his hands or his penis. I also believe he would agree he has a brain.   

There are millions of men who do not rape women and children whether on the public battlefields of warring or in the private battlefields of home and community. These men will need to help women and girls by holding their male peers accountable or else we might be able to say they, by their inaction, are agreeing to the rapings of women and children, girls predominately. But, all women are also responsible to say “NO” to raping wherever it occurs and by whomever perpetrates such sexualized crimes or they too, it can be said, are agreeing to the rapings of women and children, girls predominately.

Linda and I have worked since 1993 with the reality of non-state torture (NST) that occurs in the battlefields of home and community. When we compare the brutalities of NST raping that is inflicted by families/groups (yes, some mothers and other women are involved but men are the dominant perpetrators of rape globally) with the rapings and tortures that occur on the public battlefields the same reality applies. The perpetrators know what they are doing. They know their penises are erect. They are in control of their penises in that their penises are attached to their human bodies. But there is another reality that is both historical and present day when it comes to inflicting acts of rape. These rapist-torturers frequently gang together for group-bonding rapings. They express their group-bonding ‘pleasures’ by each male person intentionally ejaculating into any orifice of the woman or girl’s body or on her body as they stand by and watch voyeuristically or immobilize the girl or woman while other males rape. Some will even take ‘trophy’ photos. Some of the trophy photos will include ‘snuff’ – torture-killing images. Ex-Colonel Russell Williams took snuff trophy images of Jessica Lloyd and Marie France Comeau as he killed them following the hours of sexualized violence and humiliation they suffered that he intentionally planned and carried out.[1]

So, from this perspective, rape is not a weapon of warring; it is an intentional act of patriarchal misogynistic and misopedic violent oppression. Raping is a relational reflection of misogynistic and misopedic attitudes and actions that are gender-based. All acts of sexualized violence – specific to this blog is the act of raping – is relationally learned and passed on from one generation to another; but, as with all learning sexualized violence can be unlearned. Women and men and girls and boys who have grown up and been harmed by relational sexualized violence, whether on the public battlefield or in the home and community battlefield, do not all go on to repeat such raping.  To speak of “rape as a weapon of war” is to denounce the reality that rape is an intentional act of endemic patriarchal misogynistic and misopedic oppression that rages second-by-second-by-second across the relational face of this planet. It must so be acknowledged to be stopped.

[1] Ha, Thanh Tu. (2011, March 29). Sex killer Russell Williams had child porn, but no charges laid. Globe and Mail; Babbage, Maria. (2010, October 20). Colonel revelled in cruelty. The Chronicle Herald, pp. A1, A2.


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